JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Successfully Touches Down on Ryugu

JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Successfully Touches Down on Ryugu

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully touched down on the asteroid Ryugu this evening Eastern Standard Time (February 22 in Japan).  The goal was to collect a sample of the asteroid for return to Earth. JAXA is awaiting data to determine if a sample was indeed obtained, but it already knows the sequence of events went as planned.

In a press release tonight, JAXA stated:

Data analysis from Hayabusa2 confirms that the sequence of operation proceeded, including shooting a projectile into the asteroid to collect its sample material. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is in nominal state. This marks the Hayabusa2 successful touchdown on Ryugu. — JAXA Press Release

Launched in 2014, Hayabusa2 arrived at Ryugu on June 28, 2018. It has deployed three small landers to the surface already to scout out the best places to sample:  MINERVA II1-A and II1-B, and the German/French MASCOT. They showed that the surface was not what scientists expected.  They decided to do a test of their sample retrieval mechanism, which essentially shoots a bullet-like projectile into the surface and then collects the material that is released, using simulated Ryugu material.

The test gave them confidence it would work.  They are still awaiting confirmation that a sample was indeed collected, but a second attempt has been planned since the beginning.  It is currently scheduled for the April-June timeframe, after which another small lander/rover will be deployed.

Hayabusa 2 will depart from the asteroid at the end of this year, with the sample canister landing in Australia in December 2020.

Artist’s illustration of Hayabusa2 at Ryugu. Credit: JAXA

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